Well the first semester is at an end, all that remains is 4 finals over the next 2 weeks (no class during that time). I said that I would do a summary type post to finish, including areas that I think I have grown in, areas that are most desperately in need of improvement (comparatively), and then goals for the break.
I have really enjoyed this semester and feel like I have learned so much. I don't think personal improvement is always that obvious, but I have been told by the teachers that we have all improved a ton. I suppose they are bound to say that, but I have been told the same thing by others so that's encouraging! Obviously that is relatively speaking. I think my greatest improvement so far has been in my reading/writing, which is also my favourite aspect of learning the language. My speaking has improved too, and I think the biggest thing here is being aware of my mistakes, and they are MANY! I am constantly struggling to speak Chinese at home, but it's a real battle to change the language I speak to my wife. However, I know that the only way to get better is to do it more, and the reality is we just don't speak much in class. I also try and speak only Chinese with my classmates, which actually isn't hard because I don't speak Thai/Korean/Russian and they don't speak much English, and our teacher said one big source of improvement further on is that students speak Chinese all the time. I have also improved in my listening, but again I am very aware of my shortcomings, and my biggest one right now is that I really, really have a hard time distinguishing tones I hear. I usually try and rely on knowing the word and the context, but of course there are cases in which that just won't cut it (especially when you have to mark the tones above pinyin from audio you hear)! We covered a listening exercise in our book that I had actually done previously last March, when I first started studying the short course. All I remembered about it was having no idea what was going on, but this time it was easy. That's how I am gauging my improvement!
Areas that need improving - I think it goes without saying that there is a lot of improvement needed in every discipline. However, things that need the most immediate attention are speaking and listening. As for how I plan on seeing that improvement, I think the main way is to just continue what I have been doing. I am hoping that time will be key here. Additional things I want to make an effort to do are really hammering myself on speaking Chinese at home, and doing more listening practice, especially over the break. I am going to try and do more general listening by watching more Chinese material. I have access to plenty of Chinese movies on Youtube, and of course there's the TV. I would also like to do some more intensive listening. I have a book that I want to try and work through over the break, and I am going to try and find the CD and do all the listening exercises to go with it.
Goals for the break - I have a book called 'Short-Term Spoken Chinese', which is the elementary level, and I actually covered the previous book in the short course before starting the degree. I am going to work through this one over the break. If I don't finish the whole book then that's ok, I just want to try and do some active studying regularly. I also want to watch at least two Chinese movies a week, which I know isn't a lot, but it's better than nothing! Other than that I would like to keep active in speaking and listening when I am out and about. For reading and writing I have the book that I am studying, I also want to go back and consolidate any new vocab that I have missed over this semester, including how to write it all. The finally adding new characters/vocab to my writing deck on Anki and continuing to do that regularly.
I will write another post after my exams on how they went, and perhaps a post mid-break regarding how I am getting on with my goals. It seems that I can upload pictures again, so I will add some random pictures to this post! Edit - Two pictures uploaded successfully, the rest failed :-(